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Art History

Pisanello: biography

Antonio Pisano, known as Pisanello, was born in Pisa sometime before 1395, son of Puccio di Giovanni da Cerreto and Elisabetta. His name first appeared in the will that his father registered in Pisa on 22 November 1395 naming him sole heir. A document dated 1404 stating that the Pisan, Bartolomeo, second husband of Elisabetta, was in Verona, leads to the belief that the family had been living in the Veneto city for some years. In 1415 he received the commission to continue with the decorations of the Room of the Great Council in the Ducal Palace in Venice, a task that he would work on until 1420. He may have completed the frescoes –that have since been lost - in the castle of Pavia by 1424 (some scholars have dated them around 1440). In 1426 he completed the sculptured decorations for the tomb of Niccolò Brenzoni (who died in 1422) in the church of San Fermo Maggiore in Verona, and the completion of frescoes signed by Pisanello is more or less dated around the same time. Between 1431 and 1432 he was in Rome where he completed the decorations in the church of San Giovanni in Laterano that Gentile da Fabriano had not yet finished when he died in 1427. Pisanello left Rome after 26 July 1425 with a safe-conduct pass from Pope Eugenius IV. He stayed in Mantua where he may have started the courtly fresco cycle for the Gonzaga family: he had reached a considerable stage of completion on the synopias in time for the emperor Sigismund’s visit in September 1433. He next went to Ferrara before he returned to Verona where he stayed until 1438. The frescoes in the Pellegrini chapel in the church of Sant’Anastasia date from this sojourn in Verona. That same year he went to Ferrara, for the council and then to Mantua where he stayed at least until the autumn of 1439 when, as part of Gianfrancesco Gonzaga’s retinue he participated in the sack of Verona. He was indicted by the Rectors of Verona and brought before the Council of Ten of the Venetian Republic. After a stay in Milan (1440) and Ferrara where he painted the Portrait of Leonello d’Este, in competition with Jacopo Bellini, he again returned to Mantua (August 1441) where he was pardoned in 1442 and permitted to return home under the condition that he appear in Venice by March. He did not comply and in October of that same year he was declared a rebel. The Council of Ten allowed him to go to Ferrara, to the Este court but absolutely forbade him from going to either Verona or Mantua. On 15 February 1443 he left Venice for Ferrara. He made the medal dated 1444 for the duke, Leonello. His work as a medal maker continued over the following years with the portraits of Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, lord of Rimini (1445), Cecilia Gonzaga and Ludovico II Gonzaga (1447). At the end of 1448 Pisanello departed for Naples and the court of Alfonso of Aragon The exact date of his death is not known, but it must have occurred some time around 1445, as deduced from a letter dated 31 October 1455 from Carlo de’Medici to his brother Giovanni stating that he had purchased a certain number of medals from a helper of the painter who had just died.

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